A house atop chicken legs, murderous brides, and bear boyfriends abound in Boutique Theatre’s production of ‘The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls’. It is a production written by American Meg Miroshnik, which sets out to be a strange but charming romp through post-Soviet Russia, but sadly the script does not manage to combine all its disparate elements into a cohesive whole. Instead, it sits somewhere in the realm of trashy pulp, but its unwavering earnestness keeps it suspended somewhere between touching folktale and hilarious piss-take.
It tells the story of Annie, who has been sent from America to Russia by her mother to lose her American accent and get back in touch with the Motherland. While there, she pieces together her romanticisation of Russia with what it really is, weaving between Russian folk tales come to life, and reality.
Director Elizabeth Millington (who, as ‘a Russian without an accent or a Russian sounding name,’ shares a lot of things in common with the play’s protagonist) does a fine job with a clunky script, but one does pause to wonder why she didn’t just devise a piece on similar themes.
Set design by Saran Jones and Nick Casey helps the production build a heart and soul, with its twisting levels and hidden entrances, and lighting design by Justine Hayes combines with Fiona Pitt’s costume design to form an often charming stage picture.
Performances by Erica Field, Cazz Bainbridge and Laila Thaker form the core of the show, with their three characters’ interweaving narratives combining all the horror, joy and madness of young womanhood. Felicity Steel’s performance as Baba Yaga is particularly memorable, her embodiment of the famous Russian grandmother-witch – at once terrifying, wise and a core of Russian storytelling – is heartfelt and suitably bizarre. Jessica Tanner, Lucina Barratt and Joey Lai all provide good support in their array of characters.
Boutique Theatre is an impressively prolific young company, however ‘The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls’ is a misstep, however earnest.